Wednesday Vignette – field trip!

Not sure about you, but books about conifers always confuse me. I find conifers endlessly intriguing, but I know shamefully little about them, and I have a terrible time making sense of these beauties from all the pretty pictures. How big are they? How fast do they grow? How do they feel to the touch? And so on.

I’m currently working on a garden I think could benefit from a number of conifers, so the client and I, plus another friend and veteran conifer fan, took a trip to Conifer Kingdom this week to check some out in person. Of course we had a wonderful time. We returned to Portland with a car load of plants my friend Marian was adding to her garden. Beth – the client – showed admirable restraint, but wrote a long list of favorites for us to try to incorporate in her future sanctuary. This was a wise move, as there is a lot to be done before her garden is ready for plants. First we have to do a lot of “reductive gardening” and remove a bunch of overgrown, fungus-ridden photinias and misshapen arborvitae, and build retaining walls and paths.

I will write a longer post on our visit later, but for now, here are a few impressions:

Conifers in nursery pots

The immense variety in shape, texture, and color is never more evident than when you see them like this. We had a ball looking through all the varieties. When they are in larger pots, you start to see the kinds of form they will eventually assume.


The future look of what was in the smaller pots was harder to imagine, so it was really useful to have wandered through the larger specimens first. Happy cows were grazing in an adjacent field – a sight that always fills me with joy.


This young calf figured out where the really green grass was. 

This was such a fun visit to such a lovely place!  I learned a lot from Sam who patiently showed us around and answered all our questions. More to come soon!

About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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18 Responses to Wednesday Vignette – field trip!

  1. Tina says:

    I don’t have much experience with conifers, though there are certainly some here and many Texas gardeners use natives and non-native conifers in their gardens. I like the shots with all the different pots of conifers. And the cow shot, nice cow shot! 🙂 Thanks for hosting and I’ll add my little vignette:

    • annamadeit says:

      I’m trying to get more confident at using them in gardens. They have such amazing breadth and variety. I like them best in combination with broadleaf shrubs – deciduous and otherwise – they are so great for winter interest. 🙂

  2. Kris Peterson says:

    Conifers aren’t all that common here but I love the idea of a conifer kingdom. I look forward to your longer post. In the meantime, my WV is all about succulents:

    • annamadeit says:

      It was a fun trip for sure. I hope the few photos I took will cobble together at least some of the many impressions adequately. It was a really nice and educational place. 🙂

  3. That’s one plant bug I’ve never been bitten by. I think it maybe due to the fact I grew up in the conifer lands of Eastern Washington and had enough of them there to last a lifetime.

    My WV:

    • annamadeit says:

      Ha! Don’t forget that you’re talking to a Swede here – raised under a canopy of towering pines and firs. Still, these little living sculptures are a far cry from the needle dropping marvels of my childhood. Right now, I feel too ignorant of their powers to feel completely bitten, but trying to build my conifer vocabulary. Hopefully I will feel more confident soon. Some of them are awfully cool, and they are great choices for aging-in-place gardens. But SO SO much to learn…

  4. tonytomeo says:

    Forest Grove is named for a grove of giant sequoias that are happier than they are here, much closer to their native range. Coastal redwoods grow wild here, but giant redwoods are never completely happy. I was impressed to see them so happy in the Pacific Northwest. Of course, I would not recommend it for your garden.

  5. hb says:

    What a beautiful setting for a plant nursery. Double happiness. Happy cows eating fresh green grass–triple happiness.

    I would have a serious conifer obsession if the local climate would make them happy, but it wouldn’t. Too hot and dry for far too long. Whew! Only a gazillion plant families to love, instead of a gazillion and one.

  6. I think of the PNW as the Mother Ship of conifers. I don’t know much about them either, and there are so few native conifers around here. Can’t say I’m excited by them. I have been thinking about planting a dwarf eastern red cedar, though. Incidentally, I am reading a novel you might like. It’s called Deep River, by Karl Marlantes. All about immigrant loggers (mainly Swedish and Finnish) in the PNW in the early 1900s. Includes a lot of stuff about the IWW.

    • annamadeit says:

      Interesting… Does it have a lot about the KKK too? Back then, being as white as it was (and still is), the Klan had a HUGE presence here in the PNW. I always feel somewhat uneasy when I think about the likely crossover between the many emigrated Scandinavians that settled here, Oregon as the only state with a constitutional black exclusion clause, and the local power of the KKK. I never studied up on it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a correlation. Does that come up at all in the book?

      • Not yet, but the author talks a lot about the violence used to repress strikers by both law enforcement and vigilantes. Also, we’ve only gotten to 1917, and the Klan had its big resurgence in the 1920s. He also talks about how, in the absence of actual Black people, Greek immigrants were considered non-white and played a similar role in the social structure.

        • Also, the book takes place in the SW corner of Washington State, along the Columbia River (hence the name of the novel).

          • annamadeit says:

            It’d be an interesting look at local history by the sounds of it. Not necessarily one that would enhance the reputation of this very white part of the world, though, but a good reality check.

          • The author grew up in Astoria, Washington. Also I just saw him interviewed in the Ken Burns documentary series on the Vietnam War. He served there with the marines, and wrote a book about it called something like What It’s Like To Go To War.

          • annamadeit says:

            I still have to see that… We’ve been watching Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States. Only a couple episodes left, but I’m at the point now where I have to make myself watch it. Fascinating stuff, but some parts are so disturbing I have to brace myself. I never studied American history other than the very rudimentary stuff I had to learn for the citizen test, so I figured I needed a crash course.

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